British retail sales returned to growth in August after the wettest July since records began 183 years ago kept shoppers at home, but the sector remained subdued overall. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 22 (UPI) -- British sales returned to the black in August, rebounding from a 1.1% decline in July to grow by 0.4% as better weather brought consumers back to supermarkets and shopping malls, the country's main statistical agency said Friday.
Food store sales volumes rose by 1.2% reversing a 2.6% slump in July led by a decline in clothing and food sales that supermarkets blamed on unseasonably wet weather deterring consumers from going out to shop, estimates from the Office for National Statistics show.
"Retail recovered a little from the large fall seen in July, driven by a partial bounce back in food and a strong month for clothing, though sales overall remain subdued," said ONS Survey and Indicators Deputy Director Heather Bovill.
However, Internet shopping volumes went the other direction, falling by 1.3% in August from a 1.9% increase in July that was largely attributed to people shopping from home due to the wettest month in 14 years and a range of promotions. The proportion that online sales made up of total sales fell slightly to 26.9%.
Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 1.2% in August with retailers telling the ONS that the drop was linked to a sharp increase in gasoline and diesel prices.
Household goods stores' volumes saw a monthly rise of 1.1% in August thanks to higher sales reported by hardware and furniture stores.
Sales volumes of department stores and other non-food stores, such as bookshops, fell by 0.4% with retailers suggesting consumers were continuing to feel the pinch from the increased cost of living and high prices.
Headline consumer and core Inflation remain high -- 6.7% and 6.2% -- despite slowing markedly in recent months. Consumers, however, are left paying much higher prices than when inflation began rising in summer 2021 as falling inflation means only that prices are rising less quickly -- not going down.
By a broader quarterly measure, sales volumes were up just 0.3% in the June to August period when compared with the March to May quarter.
Just how severely rising prices have eroded away consumers' buying power was demonstrated by data showing they spent 17.3% more in August for 1.5% fewer goods, compared with pre-COVID-19 levels in February 2020.